Is Aberdeen a good place to live?
Aberdeen is the largest city in the northeast and the third largest city in Scotland. Is Aberdeen a good place to live? Well, it depends on what you like in a city!
I spent around two years in Aberdeen City in my early 20s, one year finishing my degree at Robert Gordon University, and one year while my wife-to-be was working as a nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
While studying in Aberdeen, I quite liked the city. The people were nice, it felt like a "safe city", and it was a vastly different experience for a country boy like me. I lived near both Union Street and Holburn Street, two of the busiest areas of Aberdeen, jam-packed with many different shops and restaurants. My girlfriend (future wife) lived in the student halls at Woolman Hill, attached to Robert Gordon University.
Let's have a look at all things Aberdeen and see if we can discover if it's a good place to live!
Positives of living in Aberdeen
Here are a few positives about living in Aberdeen.
Great shopping options
Being the largest city in the northeast, Aberdeen has a great deal to offer in terms of shops and restaurants. You really are spoilt for choice with a good mix of independent shops and the usual global chains.
Fantastic job opportunities
Some great job opportunities are available in Aberdeen, particularly in the offshore oil and gas industry. These jobs are some of the highest paid in Scotland. Renewable energy is likely to be a huge industry for Scotland. Aberdeen is poised again to be at the forefront of this new boon to Scotland.
Currently, over 900 companies are involved in the oil industry alone.
Other benefits include:
There is a fun beachfront area with an amusement park, cinema and many great places to eat.
Aberdeen Airport offers flights to many worldwide destinations.
In 2022, Aberdeen was voted #3 in the best places to live in the UK by the review site HomeViews.
Everything is within walking distance of Union Street, and public transport links are excellent.
Aberdeen residents have access to two highly-rated universities: The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University (RGU). You can claim free tuition fees if you have lived in Scotland for three years.
North East Scotland College offers over 500 courses throughout Aberdeenshire.
Pittodrie Football Stadium, His Majesty's Theatre and Aberdeen Arts Centre.
P&J Live - an enormous state-of-the-art event complex.
Upgrades to Union Terrace Gardens in the city centre have just been completed at the cost of £28.3 million.
Great golfing opportunities in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Being an east coast city, midges are far less of a problem!
Negatives of living in Aberdeen
Here are some negatives about living in Aberdeen; please don't take offence, Aberdonians!
It is a city with two sides to it. If you arrive by car, you see the best side of Aberdeen - new motorways and redevelopment of vast swathes of the city.
If you arrive by train, particularly from the west side, you will see the other side of Aberdeen. A great deal of poverty, poor quality housing and some scenes that almost look like war-ravaged countries (I'm not even joking).
Despite Aberdeen often being described as the "oil capital of Europe", the money has not been reinvested back into the city, which is sad considering the scale of profits the UK government gleaned from it since the 1970s.
Expensive cost of living
Being a city closely linked to the oil and gas industry, purchasing a home or renting a property is likely to be more expensive than in other cities in Scotland. Because of the "oil bubble", property developers are taking advantage by offering their properties for much higher prices.
The death of the high street and city centre
Although I mention in the positives that there are good shopping options in Aberdeen, the high street and Bon Accord centre are all but dead - but the story is the same across all towns and cities in the UK. Many shop units are closed. Union Square is now the most popular shopping centre in Aberdeen, but quite expensive with its high-end chain stores.
The ugly duckling of Scottish cities - The Granite City
Aberdeen as a city is quite ugly, if I'm very honest. There are architectural gems to be found all over the city, such as St Machers Cathedral and Marischal College and many bad ones, particularly the high-rise apartment buildings near the city centre and beach.
Known as the "granite city" due to most of the buildings being made from granite, it is a very grey place to be... you may even forget what the colour green looks like if you stay there for any significant length of time! Luckily you don't have to travel far out of Aberdeen for some beautiful scenery.
Aberdeen is cold!
Located on the east coast of Scotland, it is drier and colder than the west coast and does not benefit from the gulf stream in the same way. The wind can be bitterly cold, and overcast days are common.
Aberdeen is geographically far from the central belt
Most of the population of Scotland lives in the central belt. Being up in the northeast can feel a little cut off from the buzz of the bigger cities, and train fees from Aberdeen can be expensive. It's also nearly 3 hours on a train to get to Edinburgh, quite a significant journey to get to the major cities, and trains are expensive. An anytime return ticket from Aberdeen to Edinburgh can be as expensive as £75; you could fly to a foreign country for less money!
Aberdonians have a reputation for being less friendly than Glasweigans, Dundonians and Dunediners. Still, I have to say the Aberdonians were kind to me during my couple of years of city life.
Is Aberdeen a safe place to live?
As with most cities, there are good areas and bad areas. For me, living in Aberdeen felt very safe, but I never left the city centre. The area from Holburn Street, down Union Street, Union Terrace and to Robert Gordon University felt very safe to me.
I was always told to avoid the Torry and Tillydrone areas of Aberdeen, but I'm sure their reputations aren't as bad as they are made out to be.
Schools in Aberdeen
Aberdeen offers a diverse array of schools catering to all ages. From its twelve high-achieving secondary schools, such as Cults Academy, Oldmachar Academy, and Aberdeen Grammar School, all ranked in the top 20 Scottish secondary schools, to its 54 primary schools and specialized schools for children with disabilities.
Higher education opportunities are also abundant, with the University of Aberdeen ranking 40th in the country and specializing in engineering, arts, and social sciences. Aberdeen Dental School ranks fourth in dentistry establishments.
The International School of Aberdeen, located near the city centre, offers International Baccalaureate programs for those interested in international studies. Overall, Aberdeen is a city where education flourishes and opportunities are abundant.
What is the cost of buying a home in Aberdeen?
The cost of living in Aberdeen is relatively high, mainly due to its high demand for housing, goods and services due to the oil industry. However, salaries in the area are also higher to compensate for this.
House prices can vary greatly depending on location, but the average price over the last year is around £185,000, which is significantly less than the high of almost £300,000 in 2006.
House prices in Aberdeen
Based on the number of bedrooms, here are rough property costs in Aberdeen:
One bedroom - £85,000.
Two bedrooms - £137,000.
Three bedrooms - £210,000.
Four bedrooms - £345,000.
Five bedrooms - £500,000.
Semi-detached and detached homes are more expensive than flats and terraced properties.
Best areas to live in Aberdeen
Here is a selection of the best places to live in Aberdeen.
Rosemount & Midstocket
Nestled in the north west corner of Aberdeen, Rosemount and Midstocket are sought-after neighbourhoods that appeal to a diverse group of residents, including young professionals and families.
This suburb offers an abundance of convenient amenities, including an array of supermarkets, charming local shops, diverse dining options, and highly-regarded primary and secondary schools, all within easy proximity. Not to mention, residents can enjoy a lush and verdant atmosphere with numerous parks and open spaces and the bustling energy of Union Street only a stone's throw away.
The housing landscape of this neighbourhood is a harmonious blend of classic Victorian granite tenement buildings and contemporary apartment complexes. With new developments constantly emerging, there's something for every taste and lifestyle in Rosemount and Midstocket.
Ruthrieston is a sought-after neighbourhood located in Aberdeen's West End. Residential options that cater to a variety of lifestyles and preferences, from cosy one-bedroom flats to spacious detached homes and charming terraced houses, the area boasts a rich diversity of housing types.
The highlight of this suburb lies in its exceptional leisure amenities, such as the Ruthrieston Outdoor Sports Centre and the Ruthrieston Community Centre, providing ample opportunities for recreation and fitness. The neighbourhood also offers a bounty of dining and shopping options, with the city centre's diverse array of offerings only a short commute away.
Old Aberdeen's central location in close proximity to the University of Aberdeen has established it as one of the city's most sought-after neighbourhoods. Here, homebuyers are treated to a tantalizing array of residential options, from grand historic homes to charming cottage-style properties and charming flats with plenty of personality. This diverse and vibrant area appeals to a range of demographics, particularly students and city-dwellers who crave the best of both worlds - the convenience of city life and the timeless allure of Aberdeen's historic charm.
As one of the city's premier neighbourhoods, Old Aberdeen's prime location near central Aberdeen and iconic landmarks contribute to a highly competitive real estate market, where buyers are eager to secure a piece of this attractive and desirable district.
Bridge of Dee/Garthdee
Nestled along the tranquil shores of the River Dee, these two upscale suburbs offer a serene sanctuary for city workers and students attending the highly-regarded Robert Gordon University in Garthdee.
Equipped with an array of local conveniences and serviced by a dependable public transportation system, these districts provide easy access to the bustling city centre. Students are drawn to this area for its proximity to RGU's Garthdee campus, while young families are drawn to its family-friendly atmosphere. Surrounded by sprawling parks and green spaces, the region is further enriched by the Inchgarth Community Centre, offering a year-round calendar of events and activities that appeal to all ages.
Bridge of Don
The charming and serene atmosphere, paired with its convenient 10-minute proximity to the city centre, has made Bridge of Don one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods for property buyers in Aberdeen. This thriving district is a haven for working professionals and families alike, offering top-notch local amenities, a plethora of exceptional schools, and proximity to lush parks and golf courses.
This idyllic suburb boasts an impressive array of housing options, from spacious properties to brand-new homes, providing ample choices for those seeking to put down roots in this picturesque community.
This friendly seaside suburb, located on the southeast edge of Aberdeen, offers a quaint and relaxed village vibe combined with all the amenities of a larger town. The local community boasts primary and secondary schools, a state-of-the-art library, a shopping centre, and several supermarkets, make living in Cove Bay convenient and comfortable.
Cove Bay is a hidden gem, and its regular bus services provide a seamless connection to the main city centre and surrounding areas. Embrace the best of both worlds in this idyllic coastal neighbourhood.
Cults & Bielside
Just a stone's throw from the bustle of central Aberdeen, Cults and Bielside are two of the most highly coveted neighbourhoods in the city. These upscale suburbs boast a prime location that puts the best of the city within easy reach while offering a peaceful refuge from the hectic pace of urban life.
In addition to their convenient location, Cults and Bielside are known for their excellent amenities, including top-notch schools, recreational facilities, and ample shopping and dining options. And for those who value education, Cults Academy - a renowned state secondary school - is just one of several top-notch institutions in the area.
Living outside of Aberdeen
If you're looking to work in Aberdeen, many options are available if you would like to live in a smaller settlement instead of the big city. Stonehaven, Banchory, Inverurie, and Ellon are all great options with short commutes into Aberdeen.
Banchory - 31 minutes / 19.1 miles.
Dyce - 15 minutes / 6.2 miles.
Ellon - 22 minutes / 15.9 miles.
Inverurie - 26 minutes / 16.4 miles.
Kingswells - 16 minutes / 6.2 miles.
Stonehaven - 23 minutes / 15.6 miles.
Key information on Aberdeen:
Aberdeen is a Scottish city in northeast Scotland.
Aberdeen has a population of around 230,000.
Aberdeen offers well-paid jobs in the oil, gas and renewables industries.
Educational options are abundant in Aberdeen.
Property and rental prices will be higher in Aberdeen.
Settlements outside of Aberdeen can offer the best of both worlds: rural life and city jobs.
I personally loved my time in Aberdeen. It gave me a taste of city life, and it felt nice to be amongst my fellow humans instead of in the countryside. If you're considering a move to Aberdeen, why not take a short break there first and see if it appeals to you?
Although Aberdeen wouldn't be at the top of my list of Scottish cities to live in, it's a great place with fantastic opportunities and is well worth your consideration as your future home.
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